Japanese churches provide relief for ‘triple disaster’

Published May 30, 2011

Volunteers seek funds in downtown Vancouver to help victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Photo: Denis Kuvaev

Tokyo
Japan’s Christian Council has decided to establish an office to coordinate relief operations in Japan and from abroad in response to the devastating earthquake that struck in February, causing a tsunami and problems at some nuclear power plants. The decision was made as the Council begins a restructuring process of reducing staff and clarifying decision-making functions.

At an executive meeting in Tokyo today, the National Christian Council (NCC) in Japan said it hopes to "participate in the work of restoring the affected areas from the East Japan Earthquake in solidarity with Christian churches and Christian organizations in Japan and abroad." The office will employ a small staff and tentatively plans to work until the end of the NCC general assembly’s term next March.

Attendees at the two-day Japan Earthquake/Tsunami Relief Ecumenical Solidarity Meeting in Seoul, South Korea on May 6 and 7  urged churches in Japan and the NCC to establish a consortium to respond to the "triple disaster."

A consortium can’t be formed immediately, explained Rev. Isamu Koshiishi of the NCC. "What is within our capacity is to mediate and help [the relief operations]."

Rev. Hiroko Ueda, the NCC’s acting office general secretary, told ENInews that the decision was "a small first step" compared to what was expected by the Seoul meeting. "We cannot make our organization larger when we have to make it smaller," she said. Ueda told ENInews the requested consortium "would require an organizational structure more than twice as large as our current one."

"We have received many offers for relief operations, but we were not prepared enough," said Rev. George W. Gish, of the NCC.

The NCC and the Sendai Christian Alliance Disaster Relief Network called upon member churches to form sister church relationships with small and independent churches in affected areas that lack denominational support.

As of May 27, 15,247 people have been killed as a result of the earthquake. 8,593 are missing, and 106,699 buildings have collapsed, according to Japan’s National Police Agency.

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